Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Author Trouble: Baseball Edition

Authorship is a vexed question, my friends. You may have seen the news that your avuncular grandfather, Joe Torre, has written a vengeful book about his time managing the Yankees. ESPN loves this story, and why not? Torre taking shots at A-Rod? That's golden delicious. Except that maybe Torre didn't--at least, not in the way that ESPN thinks.

You see, it's complicated. According to reports, Torre is only the coauthor of the book:

The book, "The Yankee Years," debuts Feb. 3. It is co-written by Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci. It is published by Doubleday. While Torre is the co-author, the book contains both his thoughts and independent reporting, according to Verducci.
Well, so it seems that the book is a hybrid between Torre's memories and Verducci's "independent reporting." Except that doesn't actually seem to be the case either:
"I think it's important to understand context here. The book is not a first-person book by Joe Torre, it's a third-person narrative based on 12 years of knowing the Yankees and it's about the changes in the game in that period," Verducci told [SI.com].
So Torre's contributions are not in the first-person. And in fact, there appear to be a lot more than Torre's reflections at work here:
The book is not a first-person tell-all, but rather, a third-person narrative by Verducci, who interviewed dozens of players and team personnel while researching for the book, the source said.
Now this all sounds straightforward, right? This isn't a Joe Torre score-settling book; rather, it's a sober third-person account of the Torre's Yankee years based on Verducci's reporting and numerous interviews within the organization.

So clearly ESPN (and other news outlets) have been making too big a deal about this book, right? Well, except the book isn't quite your normal third-person journalistic report either, because Joe Torre is the coauthor. This is what makes it all so strange. Is this a tell-all book by the former Yankees manager? Apparently not. But clearly the former Yankees manager has a responsibility for the contents beyond just being interviewed for the book. As an author, Torre must have some responsibility, even for the "third person" parts, right? And I think that's what confuses everyone (ESPN included).

Like I said, authorship is a vexed question (and you don't need Derrida to tell you that).

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